I’m not much of a gamer but I went to an intense 24 hour session

And I didn’t get carpal tunnel

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Every month or so, Queen’s Dragonslayers (anime and gaming) society at Queen’s University Belfast hosts a 24 hour session of video games, anime screenings, collectable card games and other such. I don’t know much about gaming – unless Mario Kart counts – but I went along to see if I could hack it.

It was to start at 12 in the afternoon on the Saturday and end at 12 the following afternoon, but I had heard from a serial attendee that it doesn’t get good until around five, so I waited until 5pm to come along.

So it begins

So it begins

I was strangely nervous about it – what if they were all as weird as they seem? What if nobody spoke to me? But they did have tea making facilities and I had come prepared.

Why game when you can make tea?

Why game when you can make tea?

The set up was a huge room with dozens of screens, all with different games being played on them. There were a number of tables for people to play card games, and there was a large projector showing anime that I had never heard of. You’d expect hours of old school card games and Japanese TV to be pretty niche, but there were nearly a hundred people there when I first arrived, better turnout than I’d every seen on other society socials.

Let's fight

I am the only girl in this photograph

I challenged some of the nerds to a game called Soul Caliber (you fight people in it). I don’t really get this game – my avatar was some guy who looked like a prince and he randomly removed his clothes. They loved it, I felt confused.

Help, I don't understand

Help, I don’t understand

I then played as a skeleton guy and, as expected, I didn’t win any of the rounds. Though I did beat a few people in single matches, proving that there are people who aren’t much better at video games than I am.

From there, we moved onto Guitar Hero. It was beginning to seem like one game after another, I wondered how they lasted for an entire day. I’d also never played Guitar Hero before.

Looking slick on the guitar

Looking slick on the guitar

I just couldn’t keep up with it, this stuff is fast. While playing Guitar Hero I encountered something I didn’t know existed before, a seriously smug gamer.

Turns out there are some horrible snobs in gaming circles, and this guy was one of them. Wow mate, you can play “Through the Fire and Flames” on Guitar Hero. Maybe I would be impressed if you could play it on an actual musical instrument. Did he spend hours practising that song just so he could sneer at people?

rocking out with the band

Not this guy, he was nice

I just assumed these kind of nights were to hang out with friends and to play games together, but there are people who bring their laptops and use them all night, not talking to anyone, which I didn’t understand at all.

Apparently these guys come to connect their computers and play games like League of Legends and World of Warcraft in a party. Sociable bunch.

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The party provided pizza, which was pretty good. The group have discounts with pizza companies and ordered some for everyone, but I was still too cheap to spend the money.

Instead, getting exhausted (by now it was around 11pm and I’d been there for six hours) I went home and made myself dinner. Feeling a bit left out with the experts, I made sure to bring back the one thing they were vitally missing (and the one thing I was good at) – Mario Kart.

This gave me a beautiful chance to show some of these nerds what it is like to be beaten.

Hell yeah

Hell yeah

One of the strangest things I noticed in my endless hours with the gamers, was how seriously they took everything. They’re quick to reassure others how “it’s just a game” when someone else loses, but it’s everything to them when they win. It made me wonder if they took their video game achievements to seriously because of a lack of the same achievements in the real world.

I managed to play Mario Kart with them until about half 3 in the morning, then it dawned on me, I just couldn’t hack it.

The smell of pizza hung heavy in the hot air, gamers were slumped on chairs around me. As someone who casually plays around two hours of video game a week, maybe, I had to accept 24 hours of this was never going to work for me. The number of hardcore gamers had declined to around fifty.

No amount of tea, or sweets could make me stay awake and sane. I had been sitting looking at screens, with everyone around me too tired to talk. Boxes of pizza were strewn about the floor, and all the gaming controllers felt as if they had been dipped in a chip pan.

As I left I heard some people saying they wish there could be events like this everyday. Video games are escapism, but if you need 24 hours of escapism every day, you need more help than the cheat book is going to offer.